The ninth annual Scholarship Dinner unfolded in the evening hours of February 13th, 2020, right on the ocean at the beautiful Ritz Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Florida. Beginning with a cocktail hour and followed by a dinner program emceed by Andrea Serrani, class of 2012, and Colin Stroud, class of 2022, the theme of the night was “A Salute to Our Past, Present, and Future.” This was beautifully conveyed through the performances and presence of many current students and alumni. Additionally, all three of Ave’s presidents — Nick Healy, James Towey, and current president, Christopher Ice — were in attendance. Founder and Chancellor Tom Monaghan also attended the evening.
The night featured an invocation from board member Bishop Kevin Rhoades, from the diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, and remarks from Mr. Monaghan, Mr. Towey, and President Ice about their own Ave experience.
Monaghan spoke on the founding of Ave Maria and the transition to the current campus, addressing some of the challenges that have taken place over the years. He recalled that when Jim Towey came to Ave, “He was looking at everything with fresh eyes. He added a lot of new majors and many good projects, especially the fantastic Mother Teresa Project.” Monaghan stated that after Towey’s nine-year term, “God sent us a man by the name of Chris Ice. I think he is just what the doctor ordered for this university at this time.” Monaghan concluded by asking those present to “think of Ave Maria in your prayers, and say an ‘Ave’ every day for Ave.”
Towey began his remarks by thanking Monaghan and the Board of Trustees for the transformational privilege of serving the University for nine years. He said, “When I look back, I take a great deal of satisfaction in what we did in the Blessed Mother’s name on this campus.” He went on to speak of the growth of Ave over those nine years, saying that, “All of the success is not mine to claim because it owes to the foundational efforts of all who joined Tom at the beginning and all those who joined since then, and most, of all, by God’s grace.”
President Ice shared stories about his experiences with students, remarking how impressed he is by the maturity of their Catholic faith and the genuine joy they have expressed to him and various visitors to campus over the past weeks. He spoke about vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and marriage blossoming at Ave. Leading up to the Feast of the Annunciation and his inauguration, he invited the entirety of the Ave Maria family to join him in Marian consecration, using Fr. Gaitley’s “33 Days to Morning Glory.” He said, “As I stated in my acceptance remarks in November concerning the state of affairs at numerous Catholic universities today; I commit to you again here tonight at Ave Maria University, we’re going to run to our Catholic faith, not away from it. Please pray for me, that I will lead with wisdom, prudence, and clear vision.”
“Everything about who I am today has been shaped by Mary’s little nudge that got me to Ave,” Andrea said in her alumna testimony, as she talked about how Ave taught her how to really love. Colin Stroud talked about how the scholarships are what originally piqued his interest in Ave. The theme of generosity characterized Ave for him, from the original scholarships he received, to going to Uganda with the Mother Theresa Project and preaching the truth of God’s love to prisoners. He said, “My education prepared me for my mission. So, whether it be summer camps, mission trips, parishes, nonprofits, radio stations, in Andrea’s case, Fortune Five Hundred companies, or just the domestic church at home, Ave students, current and alumni, are all over the world during exceptional things thanks to generosity.”
In addition to these profound remarks and testimonials, the evening featured incredible student performances, from the AMU Chamber Choir to a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by freshman Teresa Thompkins, as well as student-led Irish folk band called Jimmy and the Spud Guns. Matthew Resin, class of 2019, concluded the night in grandeur, singing Ave Maria as a parting gift to Mr. Towey.
It was a night filled with tributes to Ave’s past, excitement for all of the goodness presently happening at Ave, and hopeful anticipation for all that is to come. The scholarship dinner attendees generously gave a total of $585,000, which will be used to enable future Ave students to attend the university with financial aid.
Written by: Anne-Marie Schlueter
Edited by: Madeleine O’Rourke